Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Information

Scott C. Idleman, Multiculturalism and the Future of Tribal Sovereignty, 35 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 589 (2004)

Source Publication

35 Columbia Human Rights Law Review 589 (2004)


American Indian tribes would appear to be natural constituents and beneficiaries of the multiculturalism movement. Their members are generally conceptualized as racial or ethnic minorities; they have endured social and legal oppression and continue to encounter structural and even intentional discrimination; and, not least importantly, they possess genuinely different cultures and consequently add diverse perspectives to society. Despite this apparent fit, this Article questions the extent to which tribes and tribal members actually should align themselves with multicultural proponents and initiatives. The basis for this inquiry is that, unlike other societal subgroups, each recognized tribe is a distinct geopolitical entity with various powers of governance over its members and territory. In turn, it is largely this historical and legal reality, and not the ethnicity or past oppression of their members, that situates Indian tribes on the American landscape and shapes the nature of their decisionmaking. After demonstrating that multiculturalism essentially rests on premises and pursues goals that are often inconsistent with the status, perspectives, and objectives of tribes, the Article proposes and assesses three models of tribal-multicultural relations - association, avoidance, and appropriation - and concludes that an appropriative approach would best secure the sovereignty and ultimately the survival of tribes.

Included in

Law Commons